Formation   Structure   Combat histroy

The formation of the SS-Freiwilligen-Panzer-Grenadier-Brigade/Division 'Nederland'

In the spring of 1943 Berlin developed plans to combine the Dutch, Norwegian, and Danish volunteer units in a new European volunteer division similar to 'Wiking'. The experiment with the European 'Germanic' legions had failed, and besides, relatively small units such as the legions were no longer efficient now that the Germans had been driven in the defensive. The new Division, which was to carry the name 'Nordland', was itself advocated by the NSB (national-socialist movement in the Netherlands) leader Anton Mussert. However, he opposed to the name 'Nordland' which, in his opinion, referred too much to Scandinavia while most of the soldiers would be Dutch. Mussert suggested to create a Division 'Nederland' (the Netherlands) instead.

Although the SS supported Mussert's plan for an entirely Dutch unit and even though thousands of Dutch volunteers fought for the German cause on the Eastern Front, it was not realistic to think that the creation of a completely Dutch SS-Division was a possibility. Because a Waffen-SS Division normally consisted of 18.000 or 20.000 men, a number of soldiers that could not possibly be recruited or transferred from other units within such a short time, the SS ordered the establishment of an SS-Brigade 'Nederland' instead.

Dutch volunteers leaving
A Brigade normally consisted of 8.000 men, a number which was thought to be much more realistic. In November 1943 the 4.SS-Freiwilligen-Panzer-Grenadier-Brigade 'Nederland' was established (at first without the addition '4.'). The Dutch volunteer legion was pulled out of the Eastern Front in April 1943 and its men were transferred to the new Brigade. The Dutch were still permitted to wear their national and NSB insignias such as the 'prinsevlag' and the 'wolfsangel', but this rarely occurred. In the summer of 1943 the Brigade was sent to Croatia. Near Zagreb the volunteers were trained again and used against Titos partisans now and then. At the same time 1.500 volunteers (most of them Dutch) from SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Division 'Wiking' arrived in Croatia.
They were transferred to the new Brigade and on Christmas eve 1943 the Brigade, commanded by SS-Oberführer Jürgen Wagner (former commander of SS-Standarte 'Germania' of 'Wiking'), was sent to Leningrad. The Brigade consisted of two infantry Regiments: 48.'General Seyffardt' (Niederländisches Nr. 1) and 49.'de Ruyter' (Niederländisches Nr. 2). Most of the former legionnaires served in the Regiment 'General Seyffardt' (in memory of the commander of the Dutch volunteer legion who had by then been liquidated by the resistance). About 2.500 Dutch volunteers served in the Brigade 'Nederland' (which counted 6.713 men at its height). The total number of Dutch volunteers declined even further as the war continued, not only because of the numerous losses but also as a result of the minimal number of new recruits. In December 1944 the Brigade was given the status of a Division, even though the unit never counted enough soldiers to be a 'real' Division. The largest part of the 23.SS-Freiwilligen-Panzer-Grenadier-Division 'Nederland' surrendered to the Americans after they were defeated by the Red Army near Berlin.
Jürgen Wagner

Sources: (read literatuur for title specifications) Pierik, Van Leningrad tot Berlijn; In 't Veld, de SS en Nederland; Hausser, Waffen-SS im Einsatz; Steiner, Die Freiwilligen; Armando, De SS'ers; Verrips, Mannen die niet deugden; De Jong, Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in de Tweede Wereldoorlog; Vincx en Schotanius, Nederlandse vrijwilligers.

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